The hike begins at the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall in Miyun County, very close to the border of the Beijing and Hebei provinces. Even though it’s designated as a park, this section of the Great Wall is largely unrestored. It’s not often visited either, probably because it is so far away from central Beijing.
We’ll start the walk with a short climb up to a tower on the Wall. There are a lot of towers on this stretch of the Wall – some in good condition, some tumbled down to foundations only. From the first tower we can see the Wall stretching off into the hills of northern Miyun. We’ll be following it the other way, towards Jinshanling, and Hebei Province.
It would be nice to walk on the Wall all the way to Jinshanling, but part of it borders military land and that section of it is blocked off. This means taking a detour through Spider Valley!
When we first hiked this trail, the bushy path through Spider Valley was draped with cobwebs and we saw many a big fat spider sitting in the middle of their web. These days, there are fewer spiders. On the way through Spider Valley, we’ll walk by an abandoned house, wells, and water stores, as well as the occasional cobweb.
Once we’re out of Spider Valley we’ll start getting into the fields that surround Hemp Village. There are about 100 people living in this valley, surrounded by hills on all sides. They mostly grow corn in this area, but in the right season you can spot hemp and tobacco, and there are donkeys, cows, chickens, and dogs around as well.
Before we arrive at the main part of Hemp Village we’ll make a turn-off and head back up towards the Wall, following a trail up the valley. It will take about forty minutes to get up there, and parts of it get a bit steep. There are good views at the top – Gubeikou Wall one way, Jinshanling Wall the other – and we’ll stop for a snack and a bit of rest before heading down to Jinshanling.
Along the way to Jinshanling we’ll get a different view of the wall, walking a trail by the base of the Mongolia side, and making a few tricky ascents and descents on the way to the archway that will get us back on top. This section is the west side of the Jinshanling Great Wall.
We’ll be following the Jinshanling Great Wall from west to east, starting off on the unrestored section before heading down into the main restored area. We’ll head straight through the restored area, and on towards the Simatai Great Wall.
Once we reach the end of the Jinshanling section, we’ll be able to get good views of much of the Simatai Great Wall, including the steep eastern ridge where the famously hard-to-reach Sky Bridge and Fairy Tower are located.
After a little look over that way, we’ll leave the wall and head down a paved park trail. This trail leads down a valley, and after about thirty minutes we’ll arrive at the bottom and meet our bus.
Before heading back to the city, we’ll have a late lunch (perhaps around 2–3pm) at a local restaurant. The cost of food and drinks is included in the price of the hike.